Here's the important choice Salem voters will make in the May 17 election for Mayor and four City Council seats.
Do we want a Mayor and City Councilors who encourage us to SPEAK UP?
These candidates are Carole Smith, Mayor; Cara Kaser, Ward 1; Matt Ausec, Ward 5: Sally Cook, Ward 7.
Or do we want a Mayor and City Councilors who prefer that we SHUT UP?
These candidates are Chuck Bennett, Mayor; Jan Kailuweit, Ward 1; Brad Nanke, Ward 3; Warren Bednarz, Ward 7.
I've heard each of the SPEAK UP and SHUT UP candidates speak at debates and forums. I've perused their web sites and read news stories about them.
So I feel confident in saying that people who value citizen involvement, and want City officials to be open to creative fresh ideas about how to make Salem a more livable city, should vote for Smith, Kaser, Ausec, and Cook.
Mayor candidate Carole Smith expressed the SPEAK UP view nicely in a recent Statesman Journal story about her and Bennett.
Smith — who is retired — and her husband owned and restored four historic downtown buildings, including the Grand Ballroom and Theatre. They took pigeon-infested blights and turned them into active downtown properties.
When you buy a historic building, you have to look at "not what it is, but what it could be," she said. Smith said she looks at Salem the same way. For Smith, "it's mainly about community input."
She believes that if everyone works together to make Salem into a place we'd all like to live, then more family-wage jobs will come to Salem.
"If we could just make a community we all love and cherish, how could others not know it?" she said. "We'd have a better community if we just listened."
Getting citizens to feel more welcomed and encouraged to participate in the community would be a huge accomplishment, she said. One of the ways she wants to do that is by instituting public, monthly "coffee with the mayor" sessions like what Mayor Cathy Clark does in Keizer.
By contrast the SHUT UP candidates are OK with the crappy way the current conservative City Council majority treats citizens. This is reflected in a quote from Chuck Bennett that was in the Statesman Journal story.
For the past nine years, Bennett has served Ward 1 as its representative on city council. He has worked closely with the mayor, councilors and city staff. That intimate knowledge of city workings is why Bennett said he's best suited for the role of mayor.
"I know what I'm talking about and I know what I'm doing," he said.
Well, a Mayor who believes that he knows what he's talking about and doing won't be motivated to ask people, "What ideas do you have for making this town better?" Bennett wrongly thinks he already has all of the answers.
Which, of course, he doesn't.
In a similar vein, I've heard the SHUT UP City Council candidates say that everything is fine with the inadequate way City government currently views public participation. I talked about this in "Edgiest moments from Salem City Council Candidate Forum."
Citizen involvement. Kailuweit and Nanke repeatedly referred to the City Council's Budget Committee as being a marvelous example of how open and transparent city government is. Why, anyone can be involved in the budgeting process. All you have to do is somehow learn that the Committee is meeting, then have the time and inclination to testify.
They were astounded that -- shock! -- often no citizens take part in the Budget Committee goings-on. But in line with the Chamber of Commerce Team motto, Everything is great in Salem, so keep things just as they are, Kailuweit and Nanke saw little or no need to do anything differently, citizen-outreach-wise.
On the other hand, the Progressive Team was big on encouraging more public involvement in City of Salem affairs. Ausec said that expensive consultants should be used less, and knowledgeable local people should be used more. Cook said that citizens should be talked to on the neighborhood level, rather than expecting citizens to troop down to City Hall at inconvenient times in order to weigh in on policy issues.
So I urge Salem citizens to vote for the SPEAK UP candidates: Carole Smith, Cara Kaser, Matt Ausec, Sally Cook.
It's no fun to be told to SHUT UP -- especially by so-called "public servants."